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Now Hear This
On Sunday, for the first time in his four months as coach of the Super Bowl champion Giants, Ray Handley got so angry with his players that he yelled at them. It was halftime at Soldier Field, and the Giants, trailing 13-0 to the Bears because of a few shoddy plays, were on the way to their second loss in three games. Mount Handley finally erupted.
"You outplay them for 27 minutes, and for three minutes you get your butts kicked, damn it!" Handley railed, according to a team member. "No excuses for it! You're better than they are!" A bookish Stanford man, Handley even threw in some curse words for emphasis.
Handley's screaming session was a necessary wake-up call for his team. The Giants almost won the game in the second half—Chicago hung on for a 20-17 victory—and they controlled the ball the way the 1990 Giants did, holding it 37 minutes for the game. It's not time to write off New York, but it was time for an alarm to go off.
"Last year, we win this game" said Giants cornerback Mark Collins, one of this season's early goats, after the game. "Mentally, we knew we would pull out a game like this one."
If New York had gone into the locker room under similar halftime circumstances during Bill Parcells' eight-year tenure as coach, he wouldn't have merely railed at the players; he would have threatened them with the loss of their jobs. Further, you can bet that midweek preparation would be more physically challenging than it is now. Collins, observers say, has been getting beaten deep in practice, and Bears wideout Wendell Davis blew past him for a 75-yard touchdown pass on Sunday. In the preseason, one offensive player was heard to say to a teammate, "Isn't practice nicer this year?" Handley was so concerned about the practice tempo before the Chicago game that he called the players together after one session and chastised them for not being ready to work.
The Giants have probably changed as much the season after winning the NFL title as any league champion ever has: Besides having a new coach, they have a new owner, Bob Tisch, who bought 50% of the team; a new starting quarterback, Jeff Hostetler, who beat out the incumbent, Phil Simms, in the preseason; a new, more relaxed approach by the coaching staff; and new offensive and defensive strategists. Last year Ron Erhardt made the offensive game plans—he's in well-paid exile now as the Giants' assistant head coach—but this season Handley and new quarterback coach Jim Fassel put the offensive package together. Former defensive whiz Bill Belichick is now coaching the Browns, so his successor, former linebackers coach Al Groh, draws up the defensive game plan.
Give the new architects these first three weeks as mulligans. But the next five weeks on the schedule—in that span the Giants have games against Cleveland at home, at Dallas, Phoenix at home and at Pittsburgh, and a bye—will allow time for the newness to wear off, and we'll see if New York is good enough to make another run at the Super Bowl. The Giants need an alarm, not a life raft. Yet.
Stats of the Week
?Sounds like a Wash to Me Dept.: Last season the Broncos started 2-1, scoring 67 points as running back Bobby Humphrey totaled 296 rushing and receiving yards. This year Humphrey is a holdout, but the Broncos are again 2-1, having scored 74 points as running back Gaston Green has picked up 270 rushing and receiving yards. Green had 102 total yards in Denver's 16-10 victory over the Sea-hawks on Sunday.